Books & Literature

Book Review: Some Achieve Greatness by John Bell

NON-FICTION: Some Achieve Greatness contains invaluable lessons on leadership, drawn from John Bell’s extensive relationship with Shakespeare and his own experience as a cultural leader.

A delightful journey through Shakespeare’s lesson on leadership.

Australian theatre royalty John Bell knows two things inside out: Shakespeare, and leadership. Having started and run two highly successful theatre companies, including the eponymous Bell Shakespeare, Bell has been asked over the years to address many conferences and workshops on the topic of leadership. Naturally, in giving those talks he turned to his greatest mentor: The Bard. 

Some Achieve Greatness pulls together the material from these talks. Combining stories from Bell’s experiences with both Nimrod and Bell Shakespeare, discussion of Shakespeare’s works and general advice on leadership, this little book is a surprisingly entertaining and enjoyable read.

Are you a leader whose organisation is facing a crisis? Turn to Henry V: tell your workers that they need to go once more unto the breach.Starting to get a little heady with power? Remember what happened to Julius Caesar. Feeling ambitious? Take a lesson from Macbeth. 

Although aimed primarily at the business/self-development market, Some Achieve Greatness manages to also be a highly accessible text on Shakespeare. Guiding the reader into some of the works, both famous and lesser-known, it is written at a level suitable for secondary students, whilst still being meaty enough for the older general reader. 

From the leadership point-of-view, it is possibly Bell’s own experiences that speak most directly to us. As both a director and artistic director, he has had to wrangle tight budgets, creative egos, funding cuts, and impossibly tight deadlines. What he doesn’t know about leadership you could engrave on a pinhead. Yet Shakespeare’s more universal lessons sit underneath the practicalities of management. 

Useful, delightful, and insightful, Some Achieve Greatness should sit on the bookshelf of any leader, aspiring leader, educator, theatre practitioner, or Shakespeare fan. 

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten 
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Pantera Press 
Released: May 2021
RRP: $29.99

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